Chicago May 2012

Before we drove over to Chicago for this weekend trip, I looked up festivals and happened across the event "Bike The Drive", which I had never heard of before. The timing worked out well because I had planned on taking our (mine and Christina's) new bikes along. It would be nice to ride these lighter (aluminum frame) bikes on such a long ride.

Christina had never done more than a few miles before, and this day was going to have record-setting heat, so I was thinking that we would only go a few miles North and then back to the starting point.

Bike The Drive!

When I was out exploring the Millennium Park area the day before the event I ran across the crew setting up booths and tents. I talked to one of the volunteers, who was organizing a bunch of forklifts, transporting large numbers of crates of bananas and apples. I was surprised at the amount of equipment involved, but he told me that they would have over 20,000 bicyclists attending! I had no idea there would be so many, I thought I had read it would "only" be 3,000 to 4,000!

Closing Lakeshore Drive to traffic began before the official event start time of 5:00 am. There was a lot of traffic still on the drive when they started to close it down. You can see the progression of events in the three pictures below, as police cars with their lights flashing herded vehicles away. Then people with lit-up orange lights waved a final warning as they walked the huge, now-empty street. The third picture shows an early cyclist (hard to see in the middle left), no doubt wanting to blast through the full 30-mile course before the crowds were out. As usual, click on these pictures to see a larger version.


Next year, we'll pick up our packages on one of the days BEFORE the morning of the event. I learned the hard way that they were handing out numbered labels (helmet and chest), wristbands, t-shirts, and paper brochures and advertising materials. Unable to carry this stuff easily while riding, we ended up going back to the room so that we could change shirts, apply labels and wristbands, and leave the paper behind. Then it was back down to Lakeshore Drive to merge with the herd!

In the leftmost of the three pictures below, you can see the bikes on Lakeshore Drive around 7:00 am - lots of people riding already. We headed down there around 8:30 am, with enough time to ride before they reopened it to traffic again at 10:30 am. In the background of the same picture you can see the registration and booth area in the park.

Starting out

People were stopping and taking pictures everywhere - it's not often you get to ride your bike with thousands of other people on an eight-lane highway! There are a lot of sights to see, with all of the skyscrapers, Lake Michigan, and Navy Pier right here by Millennium Park!

Zooming down the hill and enjoying the scenery

I hadn't really noticed the size of the hill in the picture on the left, due to being in a car whenever I've driven it, but on a bike, it's pretty big. People were really flying down it on their bikes! Part of the fun of this ride was watching the other people that were riding, too. We saw quite a few little kids on this ride.

The Bunny

As I was riding I took some pictures back over my shoulder without looking. The one on the left is cropped from a much larger one that happened to contain this costumed woman. She came past us shortly afterwards and I got Christina to ride up beside her so that I could get a picture of them riding together.

End of the line and the Chicago River photo opportunity

It took about 45 minutes to do the 7.5 mile North section. We stopped and rested at the Northernmost point of the route. Christina was determined to do the whole 15 miles, which surprised me given that she usually tries to get out of any biking I get her into at home. But she did a great job this day, I was quite impressed.

Lots of people stopped on the bridge over the Chicago River, knowing it was perhaps the last good photo opportunity before the end of the course. It wasn't going to be too much longer before Lakeshore Drive was opened back up for traffic.